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Inverness to decide future of cemetery

Oakridge Cemetery is filling up, and the city of Inverness must think about expanding it before all the preferred spaces are gone, Charles Davis of Davis Funeral Home said Monday. Only about 100 spaces are left in the city-run cemetery, according to a report by City Manager Bruce Banning. Banning says the council must decide soon whether it wants to expand the cemetery, buy land elsewhere for a new cemetery or get out of the cemetery business altogether.

Banning estimates that Oakridge will be full in about a year. Davis agrees that time is running out.

"If we don't address the issue, in six months we will have a problem," he said.

Davis said he will address the council tonight. "My sole mission is really to see if the council can address the issue and come up with a plan before all the lots are gone," he said.

Davis said his funeral home, which along with the Hooper Funeral Homes handles the sale of grave sites for the cemetery, "wants to be able to give people the choice of great spaces they should have."

In a report in February to the council, Banning noted that the space problem wasn't as critical as initially feared.

"Upon further investigation, it became evident that a trend was developing wherein there was an increase in cremations, greater utilization of the federal cemetery in Bushnell, shipments of the deceased to other cemeteries and increased cost (at Oakridge) have prompted the use of other local cemeteries," he wrote.

Banning recommended that funeral homes sell sites only as they are needed to conserve the remaining space in Oakridge.

Both Banning and Davis say the City Council soon must decide whether Inverness will keep maintaining the cemetery, which it took over from neglectful private owners several years ago, or expand the cemetery, possibly through a combined effort of public and private sectors.

"We (the city) would be responsible for the existing cemetery and contribute to the perpetual care fund until it reaches a point of self-sufficiency," Banning said in his report.

"Effectively, we would fill the existing cemetery. This would limit any of our future liabilities to other than maintenance care of Oakridge Cemetery."

The other option, the city manager suggested, would be to find land to expand Oakridge.

Banning listed three choices: six acres adjacent to the existing cemetery, about 15 acres east of Pleasant Grove Elementary School, and 20 acres of gently sloping terrain just south of the Methodist church on County Road 581.

He indicated in the report that the land next to Oakridge would be the poorest choice for expansion because it is heavily wooded, dotted with pits and holes and comes with a price tag of at least $165,000.

The best option, Banning suggested, would be the property near the church, even though it is outside the city limits.

"It would, of course, be some distance from the existing cemetery" off Hill Street, he said.

"A definite plus would be that a whole new facility would be instituted in utilizing new standards and designs for cemeteries."

That property is privately owned, but Banning said he thought the land could be purchased "at a reasonable rate. The parcel near Pleasant Grove is owned by the city and is next to the school and the public works facility.

It would require the construction of a new road several hundred feet long.

Away from any main street, this site probably would be subject to vandalism, Banning said.